Habitat coming to county

Published 9:56 am Friday, August 17, 2012

Huntington Area Habitat for Humanity is expanding its homeowner-directed house-building ministry into Lawrence County and, through the county’s tax lien program, may eliminate eyesores caused from abandoned properties.

“There is a tremendous need for affordable housing in Lawrence County,” David Michael, CEO of Habitat, said following the announcement of Habitat’s move at Thursday’s Lawrence County Commission meeting. “This has been a long time coming for me.”

Right now the Christian-based organization works exclusively in Cabell County and has built 78 houses there for low-income families who are living in substandard housing.

Habitat requires homeowners to put in a specified number of “sweat equity” hours where they work on building their house and those of other Habitat clients. They must pass a credit check, pay 100 percent of the downpayment and meet income guidelines. They must also take homeowner education classes.

“We don’t give our houses away,” Michael said. “We partner with (the homeowner) to build a house.”

After the home is built, homeowners must take over a mortgage.

“We charge no interest and make no profit to keep our houses affordable,” Michael told the commission.

Habitat hopes to acquire its first site in the county by year’s end and will concentrate on the areas from Sheridan to Athalia and Scottown to Aid.

“We rely on donated properties,” he said.

Some of those properties may come from the parcels now on the county’s delinquent tax list whose liens have been offered in public auctions by the County Treasurer Stephen Burcham, but were not purchased.

Now if the properties meet Habitat’s needs, Burcham will offer those liens to the organization for $1 each. Then Habitat must hold onto the properties for one year before it can begin foreclosure proceedings. After that the abandoned structure can be torn down to become a site for a new house.

“To get these back on the tax rolls,” Burcham said.

Commissioner Bill Pratt suggested that Community Development Block Grant funds could be used for demolition.

Burcham and Michael were to meet to come up with a list of delinquent properties. Then Habitat officials would make site visits.

“You do good work and help people realize their dream,” Commission President Les Boggs said.